One giant step

<p>A digital step change is quietly happening in the e-book world. It isn't about giants such as Amazon, Apple and Google, manufacturers such as Sony and Plastic Logic, or book chains such as Barnes &amp; Noble and Waterstone's, it's about enabling any bookseller, anywhere, to fully participate and sell digital content. Importantly, it offers consumers choice of where to buy their e-books without locking into one e-store and also offers, side by side, physical and digital books. </p>
<p>Last month the American Booksellers Association announced that over 200 participating members of its &ldquo;IndieCommerce&rdquo; platform will soon be able to sell e-content to their consumers. Today any of Gardners Books account holders can sell e-content to their consumers within the store, via their own websites or via Gardners &ldquo;white label&rdquo; internet store offer. Similar moves are taking place in existing book trade channels in other countries such as the Netherlands and Germany.&nbsp; </p>
<p>The key to unlocking this opportunity has come from the adoption by many <br />
e-book reader device manufacturers of Adobe's Content Server 4 (ACS4). ASC4 provides digital rights management (DRM), protected distribution of e-pub and Adobe's e-book (PDF) formatted files. It is expected mobile phones will start to support ACS4 and we could soon see a level of interoperability many thought would be impossible. Some publishers, such as leading digital exponent Taylor &amp; Francis, have gone a step further and no longer pass their digital files to third parties. Instead, they manage their own digital warehouse supported by ACS4 and deliver e-books on demand. Gone is the need for every retailer to store every digital file and host complex digital technology. Through distributed servers, we can now effectively enable anyone to sell anything to anyone through their existing channels and trusted partners.</p>
<p>When the Booksellers Association commissioned its Brave New World report three years ago, its authors clearly saw the glass as being half-full for booksellers. Many publishers wanted digital opportunities to bypass resellers, but it was clear that all that was required was a way of supplying and servicing the channel and that now exists. </p>
<p>How will bookstores react to the opportunity? Will consumers buy from their trusted bookshop or chain, or from device manufacturers? Will e-book pricing, or lack of it, encourage the current channels to fully participate? </p>
<p>There are still many digital steps still to be taken, but this is one giant step forward for the book trade.<br />